Terra Sigillata

If you follow me on Twitter (@abelpharmboy) or looked at this post Thursday, you’d know that I was going to a meetup of area Twitter users. I honestly had no idea what to expect and have to say that it was a rather enriching experience. It gave me a chance to press the flesh with a crowd very different and higher energy than some (but not all) scientific gatherings.

The group was different because the people I met were more in the tech and communications biz and the higher energy might have come from that I was probably one standard deviation away from the mean age. Click through the photo booth pictures taken by Josh Hofer here to get a feel for the crowd – the brontosaurus was the mascot of the host, Bronto Software, and the bird is the icon for The Iconfactory whose Greensboro, NC-based representatives were onsite to demonstrate the new version of Twitterific for the iPhone and iPod touch.


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As I predicted, the highlight for me was indeed drinking my first samples of beer from Fullsteam Brewery. A brewery-in-planning, Fullsteam is led by Sean Lilly Wilson (@fullsteam) who, “founded and led Pop The Cap, a lobbying organization that opened up state economic markets to North Carolina’s specialty beer industry.” With Sean was brewmaster Chris Davis (@fullsteam32). Together, they poured their “Control” beer Rocket Science India Pale Ale and their “Experimental” beer, Sweet Potato Amber.

As I wrote previously, Sean’s vision (and that shared by pioneer Fullsteam investors) is to create a unique series of Southern ales that employ locally grown fermentable products and reflect the culture from which they are derived – “radical Southern brewing” is how the experimental line of beers is described. For example, they are also experimenting with a smoked beer (Rauschbier) called Hogwash intended to go with Carolina BBQ that will be field tested at Theatre of the American South’s Barbecue Festival in Wilson, NC, on 23 May. Chris smokes their grains over hickory, just as is done for Southern barbecue.

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Fullsteam will be also be offering standard ales (session beers) in more traditional styles, such as the Rocket Science IPA, under their Control line. Given that I expected the IPA to be a blast of hops, I started with the Sweet Potato Amber.

No, not as odd as you might think – not even odd. In fact, it was a lovely and pleasing amber ale with greater body than you would expect and a nice, balanced mouthfeel. The sweet potatoes also imparted a beautiful orange-brown color that tells me this stuff is loaded with carotenoids. I told Sean that I would love to get this stuff on an LC-MS to identify and quantify the compounds to show that it is a health beer. Sean stopped me from my exuberance, informing me that regulation of alcoholic beverages is amazingly stringent, and far more restrictive than that for dietary supplements. So, Fullsteam cannot make any claims that Sweet Potato Amber is a health beer or vitamin beer.

But I can. Heh.

In fact, all craft beers will contain some amount of B-vitamins from the autolysis of brewing yeast. There is a cosmic revelation in this concept in that B-vitamins are required cofactors in ethanol metabolism. Hooray Beer!

The Rocket Science IPA was a beautiful example of this British style ale, originally designed with high-hop content to act as an antibiotic and antioxidant in preventing beer spoilage when barrels were shipped to Brits in India. In addition to characteristic hop bitterness, an IPA will have a floral hop aroma. This is done by “dry-hopping,” the addition of hops sometime after cooling of the boiled wort or, more commonly, after fermentation and racking off the yeast. Chris chooses to do an “end-stage” hopping where hops are added to the wort at the end of the boil after the heat is turned off. Another very pleasant beer, solid, clean, and true to style that makes me yearn for the opening of the Fullsteam Brewery and Restaurant.

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As a science blogger, I would be remiss in not mentioning one of the best conversation pieces of the Fullsteam set-up: “The Contraption” Chris made this rather unique tap mount using items he picked up from Durham’s The Scrap Exchange, a store that sells donated odds and ends that kids and adults can then use in all variety of projects – a “creative reuse center.” I first learned of them for their kids’ birthday party programs – it is amazing to see the creativity of pre-schoolers given free reign over buckets of industrial discards and reclaimed materials.

Labs come and go in the Triangle and so at The Scrap Exchange you can find 96-well plates, pipet tips, cell culture flasks, and all sorts of sciency stuff. (In fact, with our state budget freeze, I may go down there to buy a few things for our lab.). Chris Davis himself is a new father (of “sully” if you follow @fullsteam32) and brewing for a frontier-pushing brewery certainly requires some of that childlike curiosity that we have beaten out of us in our secondary school systems.

If you look closely at The Contraption above, you will recognize that the taps are mounted on a Hoeffer gel electrophoresis chamber. There are also cell culture bottles and T-75 culture flasks in and about the apparatus. Neither of the gentlemen have practiced as scientists (although I insist that brewing is applied biochemical engineering) but Chris thought the visual elements of the tap setup would attract attention. Indeed, attention was attracted.

There was also another brewery represented at the Tweetup: LoneRider Brewery in Raleigh. They were pouring a Hefeweizen, a German-style wheat beer containing yeast, and a Porter. The Hefeweizen was a little too sour for my taste and lacked the bubble gum aroma I find so pleasing in this fabulous summer beverage. However, their DeadEye Jack Porter was to die for. A superb balance of dark malts and creaminess, I may drive to Raleigh just to drink this beer. (Note added: Folks in the Bull City can get kegs of DeadEye Jack at the highly-regarded 500+ beer shop, Sam’s Blue Light/Quik Shop near Duke. I am in trouble. Very big trouble.)

The Tweetup itself
I don’t know how I come across to readers on this blog but in real life I am not one for “friend collecting” or trying to meet each and every one of people at a 250+ event. I prefer to have more in-depth and personal conversations with a handful of people. Others aren’t quite this way: one dude was walking around handing out his business card to all of us while we were talking with each other. I had to stop him to shake his hand before running off and share with him my blog and professional business cards.

So, yes, I missed out on meeting some people but the new folks I met are truly awesome.

While hovering around the Fullsteam serving station I met Mary Nations (@marynations), an organizations consultant and CEO of Options for Action, and Brent Wolfe, interim news director for our NPR affiliate, WUNC-FM. Brent has not started Twittering and it will be interesting to see if he does.

I also had a lovely discussion with Brenna Sowder (@beetweets), a really engaging public relations executive. While she does mostly corporate work these days, we spoke about our shared passion for non-profit organizations. And she has fabulous taste in beer.

I also had the chance to meet Rachel Gragg (@DPAC), publicist for our brand-new Durham Performing Arts Center who Bora wrote about previously. With Rachel, I met @airieldown: Taylor Traversari, a power-rock drummer for the Raleigh, NC-based band, Airiel Down. A native of Pittsburgh and with a father steeped in the city’s music industry, Taylor has a marketing degree from Penn State and uses this background to promote his band, one of the heaviest touring bands I know of from the area. Beyond the acrobatics and high-energy shows, Airiel Down is a entirely self-supporting business-savvy group of professionals who teach branding and marketing at local schools.

i laugh that I had to go to this big event to meet my own university web deisgn colleagues, Web Services Manager Damond Nollan (@damondnollan) and Web Designer Mike Render (@mrender). Regular readers may recognize Mike’s name because I cited his superb web execution work on North Carolina Central University’s website remembering the recently-departed civil rights icon, Dr John Hope Franklin.

Finally, on the way out, I caught up with old friends, Bora, Lenore Ramm (@eronel), and Rose Hoban (a brand-new twitterer @rosehoban). Rose is a nurse-turned-journalist/producer with who I serve with on the Medical and Science Journalism Graduate Advisory Board at UNC-Chapel Hill. Rose is the health reporter for WUNC-FM (“Rose Hoban, North Carolina Public Radio, WUNC”) with many talents but a particular passion for mental health, or lack thereof, in our state.

So, that was all I could take in over the two hour duration of the meetup. I missed completely the presentations and open discussion of social media. But it feels great to have spent some quality time with some new friends, outside of my discipline, and discuss our shared interests in web communications.

If I met you and don’t remember you (I didn’t drink all that much beer), please drop a note in the comments.

And many thanks for all who worked on and sponsored Triangle Tweetup 2.0.

Other Terra Sig posts on Sean Wilson and/or Fullsteam Brewery:

Comments

  1. #1 Karen James
    May 3, 2009

    That lab tap is fab, but please tell me that the beer is not actually in the gel tank. I mean, there could have been polyacrylamide in that thing once! Even if it wasn’t, I find it slightly disturbing that The Scrap Exchange – though a brilliant idea – would sell former gel electrophoresis apparatus..

  2. #2 Kevin Z
    May 3, 2009

    I’m itching to try out some Fullsteam! Can someone drop a few cases down to the crystal coast? Rhubarb in beer?? That sound freaking brilliant! (http://www.fullsteam.ag/beer/experiment/)

  3. #3 Sean Wilson
    May 3, 2009

    Karen — no beer in the tank — it’s just for show. The beer goes from keg to tap via a single line.

    Kevin — thanks tons for the good word! No cases to drop off…you’ll have to come to Wilson, NC for some Hogwash!

    @abel…here’s to being a standard deviation (or deviant?) away from the norm!

  4. #4 Kelley Dennings
    May 4, 2009

    Thanks for the post about The Scrap Exchange. I loved seeing “The contraption”. We have something for everyone there.
    Kelley
    Scrap Exchange Board Member

  5. #5 Brenna Sowder
    May 4, 2009

    Thanks for the mention! It was surely a good time — and isn’t it all about connection & engagement with diverse groups of people anyway? If only I could have met all you fabulous people AND had my stunt double attend the panel discussion :) Three cheers for Fullsteam, they’re certainly going places.

  6. #6 DJ Waldow
    May 6, 2009

    Great recap of FullSteam. I too was quite impressed. Bummed that they ran out of brew, but hey – that’s why we work next to/below Tylers.

    Sorry we didn’t get to officially meet. Maybe next tweetup. By the way, I work at Bronto and run the @bronto account…as well as my own twitter account – @djwaldow.

    dj
    @djwaldow

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